The government was scrambling to save face this morning after getting blindsided by ISAF’s decision to severely restrict joint operations between NATO forces and Afghan Army and Police. By the time Defence Secretary Philip Hammond appeared before Parliament to explain himself, he had donned his denial armour, claiming that Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan would be “substantially unchanged” by ISAF’s new policy. He even went so far as to say he has “every confidence” in Britain’s strategy to train Afghan security forces to take over when Britain ends major combat operations in 2014.
How is that possible when this year alone more than 50 NATO soldiers including 9 Brits have been killed by Afghans they were tasked with training and mentoring? And those are the deaths we’ve heard about. So called “rogue Afghan” security forces (AKA Taliban infiltrators) are also turning their weapons on well-intentioned Afghan Army and Police recruits as well as private security contractors working for the coalition—deaths that are all swept under the rug.
So why is Hammond refusing to acknowledge reality? I can only conclude that the Government is placing its ego above the lives of our brave troops serving in Afghanistan. It’s despicable. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Thankfully, there was an MP in the Commons today who had the guts to call Hammond out. Labour MP Paul Flynn accused the Defence Secretary of being a liar and blasted the Government for using our soldiers as “human shields” to protect ministers’ reputations. I couldn’t agree more.
Paul Flynn was expelled for his trouble, but that won’t silence the truth. The Government’s Afghan policy has been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the public. Few people buy the excuse anymore that we’re there to protect Britain against terrorism or that the mission will produce a more stable country. Afghanistan was in civil war long before we committed troops to the conflict and it will continue long after we’ve withdrawn them. There is no justification for forcing our soldiers to pick up the tab for a policy that is doomed to failure. Bring our troops home now. Ministers’ reputations be damned.